Fans had to be E&T specialists to survive at the Brabourne Stadium on Saturday. The ears had to be strong to withstand raucous cheering and blaring music. The throat had to have the capacity to holler for more than three hours.
<b1>It was worth the effort. India defeated Australia by seven wickets in the one-off Twenty20 international, the first in India. Gautam Gambhir, whose 75 had laid the foundation for India’s win over Pakistan in the World Twenty20 final just about a month ago, was the guiding light again. His 63 and the second wicket stand of 82 in 52 balls with the in-form Robin Uthappa were responsible in India’s victory.
A tip of the hat is also due to Harbhajan Singh. His introduction in the seventh over of the Australian innings stemmed the run flow. The offspinner gave away only 17 in his four overs and also sent back the dangerous Matthew Hayden.
The venue, resplendent in flood lights, came alive well before Australia won the toss and elected to bat. Queues stretched about half a kilometre or more from the entry points at the ground. Inside, the DJ’s console belted out Indian and international hits. The cheerleaders and the football-style benches for teams and coaches to sit on, as seen in the World Twenty20 in South Africa, were back.
Among the 25,000 or so in the stadium were Deepika Padukone, a guest of Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Shahrukh Khan.
India, needing 167 to win, started their chase in perilous fashion. Virender Sehwag, making a comeback into the side after being out due to injury, departed in the third over having made just five.
But though India lost a wicket early, they were scoring well. Gambhir, the silent assassin, had started his assault even before Sehwag got out, smacking Nathan Bracken for two boundaries in the second over. When Uthappa joined him, the runs started to come in more freely.
The fifth over gave the first strong sense that this was India’s day. Brett Lee, who had got Sehwag and has been Australia’s strike bowler throughout the tour, surrendered twenty runs.
Gambhir tucked him to fine-leg for four on the first ball. On the second, he played to cover point, Michael Clarke fielded and threw left-handed at the non-striker’s end. The ball missed the stumps. Worse, Stuart Clark at mid-on let it slip from between his legs and to the boundary.
Five runs to India, slump of the shoulders for Australia. Two more fours, this time from Uthappa, completed Lee’s, and Australia’s misery.
Gambhir and Uthappa could not stay till the end. But that gave the crowds a chance to see a few Yuvraj Singh specials. The timer par excellence struck three sixers. Captain Dhoni finished it in style with a six over square leg against Lee to set off noisy celebrations.
Earlier, Australia started well and, well, not so well. They smacked as many as 12 in the first over, all with successive boundaries. But they also lost the man who got them - Adam Gilchrist. RP Singh bowled him with a yorker. Middle stump fell like Sonny Liston did against Muhammad Ali.
The Australian innings was built around captain Ricky Ponting’s 76. Expectedly, Andrew Symonds bore the brunt of the crowd’s jeers. But they stuck to boos and not racial abuse, which is what the allrounder experienced, allegedly, in some of the previous matches.
Symonds’ irritation on Saturday, however, would not have been with the Indian fans but Ponting. The captain’s poor judgment and hesitation led him to cause Symonds’ run out.